Public holidays in the United Kingdom

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Public holidays in the United Kingdom are the public holidays observed in some or all of the countries of the United Kingdom. Most businesses and non-essential services are closed on public holidays, although an increasing number of retail businesses (especially the larger ones) do open on some of the public holidays.

Like Denmark, the United Kingdom has no national day holiday marked and/or celebrated. The lack of a formal founding date and no constitution may be the reason for the lack of a national day.

Although there is no statutory right for workers to take paid leave on public holidays, where paid leave is given (either because the business is closed or for other reasons), the public holiday can count towards the minimum statutory holiday entitlement. Likewise, if you are required to work on a public holiday, there is no statutory right to an enhanced pay rate nor to a day off in lieu (alternative day off), although many employers do give either or both. Any rights in this respect depend on the person's contract of employment.[1] The statutory minimum holidays are currently 5.6 weeks a year (including any bank holidays or public holidays that are taken).[2]

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, public holidays are commonly referred to as bank holidays, and the two terms are often used interchangeably, although strictly and legally there is a difference. A government website describes the difference as follows:

Bank holidays are holidays when banks and many other businesses are closed for the day. Public holidays are holidays which have been observed through custom and practice.

The latter are often referred to as "Common law holidays".[3][4][5][6]

Bank holidays may be declared in two ways:

The distinction between public and bank holidays is discussed in more detail in the article on Bank holidays.

In the rest of this article, the term "public holiday" is used to include all types of public holidays mentioned above.

When a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the holiday is normally postponed to the next following working weekday, which is then referred to as a 'substitute public holiday' or the date on which the public holiday is "observed".[10] This is normally the next following Monday, but if that day is itself already a public holiday or a substitute public holiday, then it may be the following Tuesday. Most commonly this happens when Christmas Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, in which case the following Monday will be a substitute public holiday for Christmas Day, and the Tuesday will be a substitute holiday for Boxing Day; whereas if Christmas Day falls on a Friday, then it will be observed on the Friday, but Boxing Day (falling on the Saturday) will be observed on the following Monday. In this way, public holidays are not 'lost' on years when they coincide with weekends (which will already be a day off for many people). (Note that, unlike the USA, where public holidays falling on a Saturday are sometimes observed on the preceding Friday, British public holidays are always moved forwards, not backwards.)

Increasingly, there are calls for public holidays on the patron saints' days in England, Scotland and Wales (Northern Ireland already has St Patrick's Day as a holiday). An online petition sent to the Prime Minister received 11,000 signatures for a public holiday in Wales on St. David's Day; the Scottish Parliament has passed a bill creating a public holiday on St. Andrew's Day although it must be taken in lieu of another public holiday;[11] campaigners in England are calling for a bank holiday on St. George's Day; and in Cornwall, there are calls for a public holiday on St. Piran's Day.[citation needed]

England, Northern Ireland and Wales[edit]

1 JanuaryNew Year's Dayfrom 1974, by Royal proclamation annually[3][4][5][6]
17 MarchSt. Patrick's DayNorthern Ireland only (this was not an officially recognised public holiday in Northern Ireland until the peace process was signed and from thereon was recognised)
variableGood FridayTraditional Common law holiday[3][4][5][6]
Easter MondayStatutory bank holiday, defined by name.[12]
First Monday in MayMay Day Bank Holidayfrom 1978, by Royal proclamation annually[3][4][5][6]
Last Monday in MaySpring Bank HolidayStatutory bank holiday from 1971,[12] following a trial period from 1965 to 1970. Replaced Whit Monday, which was formerly a public holiday whose date varied according to the date of Easter.[12][13][14] The legislation does not specify a name for the holiday, merely when it occurs.
12 JulyBattle of the Boyne (Orangeman's Day)[15]Northern Ireland only
Last Monday in AugustLate Summer Bank HolidayStatutory bank holiday from 1971,[12] following a trial period from 1965 to 1970. Replaced the first Monday in August (formerly commonly known as "August Bank Holiday".[3][6][12] The legislation does not specify a name for the holiday, merely when it occurs.
25 DecemberChristmas DayTraditional Common law holiday[3][4][5][6]
26 December (see Notes)Boxing DayStatutory bank holiday. Legislation does not name the holiday, but states that it falls on "26th December, if it be not a Sunday."[12]
27 Decembernot namedStatutory bank holiday only in a year in which 25th or 26th December is a Sunday.[12] This has the effect of adding an extra holiday when Christmas Day or Boxing Day fall on a Sunday.
Total8 (England & Wales)
10 (Northern Ireland)
In 1995 the May Bank Holiday was moved to 8 May for the 50th anniversary of VE Day



Most bank holidays are not recognised in Scotland, as public holidays are generally determined by local authorities across Scotland. Some of these may be taken in lieu of statutory holidays while others may be additional holidays, although many companies, including Royal Mail, do not follow all the holidays listed below, and many swap between English and local holidays.

Since Easter 1996 the Scottish clearing banks have harmonised the days on which they are closed with those in England and Wales and are therefore closed on Easter Monday and the last Monday in August (rather than the first). This has resulted in a number of local authorities creating a public holiday on Easter Monday. Previously Easter Monday had not been a public holiday in Scotland.

There have been many protests about banks opening on 2 January since this decision was taken. This has resulted in many banks now providing only a limited service on 2 January, with most members of staff still entitled to the holiday

DateNameMajor Towns/Cities (not an exhaustive list)
1 JanuaryNew Year's Dayall
2 January
1st Monday in FebruaryWinter HolidayInverness
1st Monday in MarchInverness
Last Monday in MarchLochaber
Easter holiday (variable)Good FridayAyr, Dumfries and Galloway, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Inverclyde, Kilmarnock, Paisley, Stirling, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire
Easter MondayAyr, Edinburgh, Falkirk, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, Kilmarnock, North Lanarkshire, Paisley, Stirling, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire
1st Monday in AprilSpring HolidayCarnoustie and Monifieth area, Dundee, Fife, Scottish Borders, Inverness, Perth,
2nd Monday in AprilAngus, expect Carnoustie and Monifieth area, Elgin
3rd Monday in April, or preceding week if would otherwise coincide with Easter MondayEdinburgh
Monday in April; date varies from year to yearAberdeen
Last Monday in AprilInverclyde
1st Monday in MayLabour Day or Early May Bank Holidayall
Tuesday after 1st Monday in MayVictoria Day (*)/Spring HolidayClydebank, Stirling
Last Monday strictly before 24 MayEdinburgh*
4th Monday in MayPerth*
Last Monday in MayAyr, Dundee*, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Paisley*, South Lanarkshire
1st Monday in JuneGalashiels, Inverclyde, Fife
Tuesday after 2nd Thursday in JuneLinlithgow MarchesLinlithgow
Second Thursday in JuneLanimer DayLanark area only
Last Monday in JuneFair HolidayElgin
Saturday preceding 1st Monday in JulyEdinburgh
1st Monday in JulyFalkirk, Inverness
1st Friday in JulyBraw Lads GatheringGalashiels
2nd Monday in JulyFair HolidayAberdeen
3rd Monday in JulyArbroath, Fife, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire except Lanark
4th Friday in JulyScottish Borders
Last Monday in JulyDundee
1st Monday in AugustPaisley
1st Monday in SeptemberLate Summer HolidayElgin, Inverclyde
2nd Monday in SeptemberBattle of Stirling BridgeFalkirk, Perth, Stirling
3rd Friday in SeptemberAyr Gold CupAyr, Kilmarnock
Monday after 3rd Friday in SeptemberAyr, Kilmarnock
3rd Monday in SeptemberAutumn HolidayEdinburgh
Last Monday in SeptemberAberdeen, Angus except Carnoustie and Monifieth area, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Paisley, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire
1st Monday in OctoberCarnoustie and Monifieth area, Dundee, Inverness, Perth
2nd Monday in OctoberScottish Borders
3rd Monday in OctoberElgin, Fife
1st Monday in NovemberSamhain holidayInverness
30 NovemberSt. Andrew's Day To be taken in lieu
of one of the other statutory holidays at discretion of individual companies/authorities.
an official holiday in Angus, Fife, Scottish Borders
25 DecemberChristmas DayAll
26 DecemberBoxing DayAll

Official bank holidays are:

1 JanuaryNew Year's Day
2 JanuaryNew Year Holiday
variableGood Friday
1st Monday in MayMay Day
Last Monday in MaySpring Holiday
1st Monday in AugustSummer Holiday
30 NovemberSt. Andrew's Day
25 DecemberChristmas Day
26 DecemberBoxing Day


Note: In 2012, there was a special holiday on Tuesday, 5 June, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Most areas did not have Monday 4 June as a holiday.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]